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Last month I was asked to offer comment to a reporter for NatWest's Sense magazine about how people should/could overcome worries about not being capable when it comes to managing their personal finances. She was creating a 'self help' piece to go in the Magazine that is sent out to the banks customers and wanted the opinion of a psychologist, to provide input to go alongside that of their own financial advisors.
 The reporter asked me if in instances where people couldn't bring themselves to look at bills or set up systems for dealing with the day to day monetary incomings and outgoings, whether there may be some phobic reaction that comes in to play - Perhaps due to childhood memories relating to Maths - Speculating that the 'underachievers' or those who didn't enjoy it, or even more fancifully, those who had an ogre like maths teacher who made them quake at the association - went on to become adults who are 'avoidant' when it comes to dealing with their home finances. Her goal was to establish anything that could be done to manage or override this tendency, so that people could become more accepting of their financial responsibilities. Now, I would not claim to be an authority on phobic type reactions and how they may manifest themselves in adulthood - And we did not discuss whether the individuals abhorrence at the prospect of dealing with finances bore any relationship to the fear of seeing their levels of overspending, a preferred state of ignorance regarding credit card bills they had run up or an all consuming concern about just how far into the red their account had dipped that month.
But, our conversation did prompt me to think about the impact of self esteem and self efficacy - a couple of age old terms in psychology which, I came to realise, have as much currency now as they ever have.
 Most people are familiar with the concept of self esteem - we often refer to it when we talk about how positive we are in terms of our self image and perception of our capabilities. Self efficacy is just as useful a construct, if not as commonly used - referring to our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations. Those with strong self efficacy are those who believe they are capable of performing well, and are more likely to view challenges as something to be mastered rather than avoided.
 Whether it's people who are struggling to manage their finances, those who are battling with an urge to tell an over domineering boss exactly what they think of them, individuals who are looking for a new employment opportunity, or considering their resources to deal with new or upcoming challenges or change - the impact of these intrinsic qualities should not be underestimated.

I now find it hard to remember precisely the pearls of wisdom that I imparted to the reporter from Sense Magazine on the matter, although I was keen to emphasise that any insights I had to share were not derived from any expertise in educational or child psychology, but were instead drawn from my observations and dealings with people in the world of work and organisations.

 Of course there are significant factors at work here about the parental messages we received as kids about the value of what we do and who we are and how these messages were moderated later in life by significant others including teachers, managers, partners and Mentors. But there are some tried and tested strategies to deploy in the face of these lesser demons - be they reconciling the domestic bank balance or dealing with a boss whose management style has more flaws than David Brent's. These include:

  Utilising support and relevant expertise - whether that is someone who can take on the tougher elements of the task for us or, perhaps even better, can coach or guide us in how to become proficient in them ourselves.
 These are types of intervention that apply to taking control of the home finances, but are equally applicable to lots of challenges that we face in our adult and professional lives.
 Starting from a position of feeling good about who we are and having a sense of being in control of the pursuit of our goals can be powerful forces in shaping the outcomes we achieve.
Practising the art of self appreciation (not to the extent of arrogance or narcissism), is something I urge people to do more regularly - whether that is through structured self reflection or just an informal review of our talents. It helps us to feel more resourceful in our own dealings with the day to day demands placed on us. In addition, for those of us in roles where others look to us for a sense of guidance and reassurance, it enables us to provide the support and encouragement that nourishes their sense of personal worth and enables them to flourish. Something which in a cyclical way comes back around to reinforce that 'feel good factor' in ourselves.
I hope that Sense readers, to whom the article applied, are now beginning the process of regaining control of their finances.... Or at least putting to rest the memories of the over zealous secondary school teaching tyrant who created the mental scars around all things mathematical!
Damian Gregory